A pastor in Louisiana has come under fire for holding a Sunday church service in defiance a state order banning large gatherings. He plans to keep serving his parishioners. Pastor Tony Spell claims his recent service was attended by 1,000 people in Baton Rouge, according to Global News.
The pastor believes his congregation isn't at risk of contracting COVID-19, he told CBS in an interview, “It’s not a concern,” Spell said last week, of his March 17 service. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
Pastor Tony Spell at the Life Tabernacle Church arranged for people from five different parishes to be bussed into his service on Sunday. The gathering of a 1,000 people far surpassed the state regulations of no more than 50 people at a gathering at one time.
Pastor Spell has no plans to stop, claiming he will hold another service on Tuesday.
“If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” said Spell in an interview with CNN. “But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”
According to Spell, local police showed up and crashed his last service. He was told that the National Guard would come to break up any future gatherings, although Col. Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard said they had not yet “been tasked with enforcing any of the curfew, social distancing or meeting requirements as set by the governor.”
He went on to encourage “all faith leaders to heed this directive and not necessarily engage in mass gatherings where this coronavirus can spread.”
Most US states have already banned public gatherings, and provinces in Canada have closed all non-essential services, including bars and restaurants, save for take out and delivery.
“Based on advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, Ontario is responding to the evolving situation by moving forward with new measures to help contain the virus,” according to a statement released by the Ford administration in Ontario.
There are more than 65,000 cases of coronavirus across the United States, while Canada has reached only 4,000 to date.